This week’s prompt referenced the Griffin and Sabine books, which I meant to read once upon a time but which kind of fell of my radar. In particular, it talks about how the symbolism in Griffin’s letters implies that he is searching for his “perfect opposite” so he can live a balanced life. The starting prompt actually wasn’t about opposites at all — it asked instead to take three items and make them into symbols of something. The extension exercises delved more into the opposites theme, but I didn’t do any of the extensions.
The prompt from A Year in the Life for this weekend was “a recipe” — that is, how do you put together something you know how to create well? It was ironic because I got this prompt when I sat down to write the night I finished my Once a Month Cooking for November. My husband was away at a workshop that weekend, so I spent one of my first weekends alone since I got married. Luckily, I used to be an expert in this field.
How to Spend a Weekend Alone
48 hrs solituide
Protein bars and other quick or non-meals
If you find yourself alone for the weekend, don’t despair! This can be an opportunity for reflection, personal growth, and rejuvenation.
It’s best if you know in advance that you will be spending the weekend alone. This gives you some time to mentally prepare. Think of all the things you might do when your partner, family, or room-mates are away. You might watch the romantic movie that’s too cheesy for everyone else’s tastes, or watch all your favorite “shipping” moments fro your favorite couple without having to explain why you’re watching just 5 minutes of a dozen X-Files episodes.
Still, even if you look forward to some aspects of your weekend alone, all that time to yourself might feel overwhelming. This tentative schedule can help you get started.
The weekend is here at last! Give yourself some downtime — eat leftovers or order takeout, and settle in for a movie you’ve wanted to watch. If you like to stay up late when you’re home alone, watch a series marathon, or make the movie a double feature.
Sleep in as long as you like — no one will judge! But this is the day when you’ll feel better about yourself if you’re a little bit productive. Clean the house or run some errands in the first half of the day. Consider using the second half of the day for creativity. Write in your journal, bust out the magnetic poetry, play an instrument, or make homemade gifts. Feel the bliss of “losing yourself” in a creative endeavor.
As the evening rolls in, give yourself the chance to relax again. Curl up with a good book, or plunk yourself down in front of the TV. At this point, a little junk food might help you round off the night.
Go to a different church than usual — maybe one you’re curious about, or one you’ve drifted away from that you’re starting to miss. This gives you a new experience, and you don’t have to answer questions about why you’re alone at your regular place of worship.
This is a good day to get outside. Take a walk or a bike ride, and bring a book so you can stop in a pretty area, perhaps a park, to read. Reflect on and enjoy your last few hours of solitude.
Sunday is a good day for making something special to get you through the week ahead — a mixx CD to listen to in your car, or a batch of cookies to pack in your work lunches.
Before you know it, that door will open and the people you share your life with will return. Hopefully your time alone has given you a new appreciation for them — and, of course, for yourself!
Today’s A Year in the Life prompt asked me to take a common object and write about it alternating the lines, “I love you for …” “I don’t love you for …” I looked up, and there sat my water bottle, and a journal entry was born.
I love you because you keep my throat and mouth moist, so I can speak and kiss with confidence.
I don’t love you because it’s awkward to carry you with me everywhere.
I love you because you give me something to do for a few moments, when I need to think or take a break.
I don’t love you because you slow me down.
I love you because you make me feel clean throughout my whole body, from the inside of my mouth to my belly to the pee that cleanses me every hour.
I don’t love you because you make me run upstairs to use the bathroom far too often.
I love you because you have a label with my name on it, and little bumpy grippers on your cap.
I don’t love you because your mouth always retains the scent of what I last ate.
I love you because you hold enough to last four hours.
I don’t love you because my husband can deplete you in just two gulps.
I love you because you will go anywhere with me.
I don’t love you because I’m always afraid I’ll leave you behind … like the many that came and went before you.
Apparently I find water bottles very inspiring, because I used a writing prompt to talk about my water bottle here, too.
How strange that I always get these prompts that are very place specific when I am traveling.
As I write this, our seven-hour-late train is bumping gently along, as the hostess announces a complimentary beef stew dinner. Perhaps I’ve been on this train before, and perhaps I haven’t. I rode this train to, or this line, at least, when I was 19, heading to Chicago and then to Memphis. I found Peter* in Chicago, and tried to be eager about it, and all I remember about it is that he picked up my bag for me, put it in a locker, held up his hand to dismiss the hawkers on the street, then took me out for Chicago-style pizza. And I don’t remember whether the pizza was good, only that he ogled the waitress, and I felt as though he was trying to make me jealous or insecure, but all he made me was disgusted.
I don’t think I met him again on the return trip.
Strangely enough, our conductor on this trip reminds me of him–a similar look to his face, a similar friendly demeanor that is easily distracted and not willing to go deeper, even if he likes to give the impression of it. I learned a lot about Amtrak from him, though. I guess I learned a fair amount from Peter, too.
I never imagined being on this trip back then, 13 years ago, with my husband beside me who never ogles waitresses when he’s having dinner with me, and who spent hours messing with his phone and his computer so I could have Internet access for the ten minutes I need it to approve my sub’s report.
Some things haven’t changed. The train is still full of Amish people and people complaining on their cell phones. It is a place both ever and never changing, a place that sees its sunsets and its sunrises in different cities, states, with different people. It is one place and it is many places, and I write this now that the view outside the window is dark because it is the only time I can tear my eyes away from the orange and yellow fire leaves, the width of the Mississippi, the graffiti under bridges and the forgotten scrap metal yards. Now that darkness has fallen, there are moments when we can’t tell we’re moving at all, when the track is so smooth, and the sound of the world going by is a strange lulling hum that could be coming from outer space.
When I’m on an airplane, the distance between and the method of crossing it is a necessary evil. But on the train, with the man I love beside me and a world I love outside the window, it is the most beautiful part of the journey.
* Name has been changed
Although I’ve been keeping up with my Year in the Life journaling, the last two exercises, which I wrote while on my trip to Puerto Rico, were not especially inspiring. Now that I’m home, today’s exercise helped me crystallize the experience in Puerto Rico. I find I often can’t or don’t write about trips while I’m on them. I know people who hardly ever write except to keep “trip journals,” who need something to shake them up a little to inspire them to write. While I’m traveling, I’m too immersed and overwhelmed by the experience itself to write about it — but that doesn’t bother me anymore, because now I know that the memories and meanings will continue to surface for the rest of my life in “ordinary time,” and that there will be many more opportunities to write about it, from a place that understands more.
This week’s prompt was to begin (and to repeat) your writing with the words, “This is a story about …” So, without further ado, my story about Puerto Rico.
This is a story about an airplane shaking over an ocean, and not knowing what I would find when it landed. It’s about the white-haired cabby who picked us up but conversed very little, and the way seeing Walgreen’s comforted me. It’s about my misgivings when I saw balconies and windows enclosed with iron bars, and how soon I was so used to it that it meant very little.
This is a story about driving around Ponce for hours looking for non-existent laundromats, and finally finding one manned by a teenager in Arecibo. It’s about saving chicken from Burger King to give to a frightened stray dog, and leaving our hotel room ate night hoping to find the resident cat. It’s about Church doors wide open, and how you were hesitant to go inside. This is a story about a world that smelled strange — fish and seaweed and garbage and sand and sun. It’s about huge metallic structures I never did understand, and some that I kind of did. It’s about being with you 24/7, and how hard being apart again was when we returned. It’s about fights while washing laundry in the sink, and the anger that propelled me all the way up to the Arecibo Observatory.
This is a story about the beauty and terror of unexpected, narrow mountain roads, and the queasy mix of sadness and relief when it was over. It’s about people who buried their chiefs two thousand years ago, and the hurricane that revealed them. It’s about getting lost on public transportation, eating too much Mofongo, watching too much reality TV and Juno three times in one day. It’s about not remembering my Spanish until the very end.
It’s about the way I held your hand during the explosions in Iron Man, and how we cried watching a movie with English subtitles. It’s about how we couldn’t spend all our arcade tokens in time, and how I came home with a folder full of tickets and itineraries I can’t bring myself to throw away.